I was not happy with the previous blog post and revised it substantially before sending it out in mt newsletter. Here is the revised version.
So, who am I to tell you about nature at night? I am someone who has read a lot, made some observations, written a lot, and published a little. My web page with links to published articles. Https://rayzimmermanauthor.com
This issue of RayzReviewz is a gateway to knowledge about the nighttime world. Follow the links for an introduction to each of the topics.
A Literary Approach
Poems and stories of the world at night are abundant, and some people like to focus on the terrifying ones, but I take a gentler approach.
The poem "To Know the Dark" by Wendell Berry offers the insight that "the dark blooms and sings." You can read the short text here: Poetry Chaikhana | Wendell Berry - To Know the Dark (poetry-chaikhana.com)
The British writer Chris Yates, who spends a lot of time writing about fishing, also spends the shortest night of the year, the Summer Solstice, walking. His book, Nightwalk: A Journey into the Heart of Nature, relates his experience on one extended walk. Nightwalk: A Journey to the Heart of Nature by Chris Yates | Goodreads
An Educational Approach
Brad Daniel and Clifford Knapp prepared an article on leading a night walk, primarily with students in mind. Knapp, now deceased, was one of my mentors at Northern Illinois University. Read their safety tips, whether exploring the nighttime world on your own or as a leader or participant in outdoor activities. Explore an area in the daytime first, and make sure you know it well before going at night.
Nighttime Adventures - Green Schools National Network
The Barred Owl is the owl most commonly encountered because they sometimes hunt in the daytime and are not shy.
The naturalist in this short film gives a great introduction to barred owls, talking about the eyes, ears, unique feathers, and habits of these birds. The Barred Owl - YouTube
The Barred Owl Fact Sheet from the National Audubon Society has another excellent introduction. 10 Fun Facts About the Barred Owl | Audubon
All about birds from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology is a good starting place to find information about any bird found in the United States. This is their page about screech owls, the smallest of our common owls. Eastern Screech-Owl Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The Great Horned Owl entry in the Audubon Field Guide is a great place to learn about our largest owl here in Tennessee. Great Horned Owl | Audubon Field Guide
The Barn Owl is also found in Tennessee and is very different from other owls. It has its own family, Tytonidae, and has nearly worldwide distribution. Barn Owl Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Less common owls in Tennessee include the Short Eared Owl, the Snowy Owl, the Long-Eared Owl, and the diminutive Northern Saw-Whet Owl. The saw-whet is only found at high altitudes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Dr. Fred Alsop found a nesting pair of Northern Saw-Whet Owls in the Smokies. Owls remain mysterious, alluring (smokymountainnews.com)
The Bats of Tennessee website for the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency has a photo of each of our many species of bats. Click on an image to see a life history of the species. Mammals Bats | State of Tennessee, Wildlife Resources Agency (tn.gov)
Gray Bats are endangered and appear in Tennessee. This video from a neighboring state tells their story. Gray Bats | This American Land - YouTube
Bat watching at Nickajack Cave in Marion County is a popular summer activity. This video shows people boating to the cave entrance. Nickajack Cave Wildlife Refuge | Tennessee River Valley (tennesseerivervalleygeotourism.org)
The above link actually takes you to a fact sheet about Nickajack Cave. It is interesting in itself, but I will include the link about boating at Nickajack Cave in the next installment.
This fact sheet on white-nose syndrome explains why bats are becoming less common. What Is White-nose Syndrome? (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Explore the Night Sky
We have several local resources for learning about astronomy, but most of them are closed due to Covid 19. You will have to wait a while to visit the Clarence T. Jones Observatory or Smith Planetarium in Walker County.
I recently visited one that is open, the Star Walk trail at Harrison Bay State Park, developed b the Barnard Astronomical Society. I enjoyed a walk on the course and read the interpretive signs, which impart a solid knowledge of the subject.
You can explore it during the daytime to learn some astronomy. Keep safety foremost in your mind. Harrison Bay State Park's Star Walk - Sky & Telescope - Sky & Telescope (skyandtelescope.org)
You can also download and print a star chart and connect some lines before using it at night. The best way to begin learning the constellations is to connect them with lines.
Star Charts | Adventure Science Center
At the end of the Big Dipper, the two stars point to the North star. The North Star is a guidepost for navigation, and the big dipper inspired the song "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd." It was a guide for escaping slaves on the underground railway.
Follow the Drinking Gourd - YouTube
The North Star is the end of the handle of the Little Dipper.
Draco winds between the dippers.
Thuban, the third star from the end of Draco's tail, was the north star in ancient Egyptian Astronomy. Vega in the Lyre will be the north star in a few thousand years. Thuban - Wikipedia
Continue your line from the big dipper to the north star to Cassiopeia, the "lazy W."
•Perseus, Pegasus, Cepheus, and Andromeda are all nearby. These constellations are all named for characters in a Greek Myth.
Medusa, the Gorgon, had hair made of snakes. Anyone who looked at her would turn to stone. A goddess she offended inflicted this condition as a punishment.
Perseus severed her head and put it in a bag so he would not become stone. The variable star Algol, also known as the demon star, represents the head. Algol - Wikipedia